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Oregon Senate Votes To Increase Legal Age For Tobacco Purchases


In this Oct. 23, 2007, file photo, Marylin Sampsel smokes in the Candlelight Tavern in Portland, Oregon. Lawmakers in Oregon are pondering increasing the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.

In this Oct. 23, 2007, file photo, Marylin Sampsel smokes in the Candlelight Tavern in Portland, Oregon. Lawmakers in Oregon are pondering increasing the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.

Don Ryan/AP

Young people in Oregon could soon need to be at least 21-years-old to buy tobacco products.

A bill approved in the Oregon Senate Thursday would focus the penalties on businesses that sell the products to people under age 21.  

Some Republicans spoke against the measure during a floor debate. They said people who were old enough to vote or join the military should also be able to legally smoke cigarettes.

But Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward said the goal of the measure is to save lives. “I understand your concerns. This is not a nanny state. This is about protecting vulnerable Oregonians from an incredibly addictive substance,” she said.

The Senate approved the bill 19-to-8, with some GOP members joining all Democrats in voting in favor of the measure. It now heads to the Oregon House for consideration.

If advocates have their way, Oregon would join California and Hawaii as the only states where people would have to be at least 21 in order to legally purchase or use tobacco products.

Dozens of cities and counties around the country have also passed local ordinances to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 years old. In Oregon, that includes Lane County. The Board of Commissioners there recently approved an ordinance there which takes effect April 13.

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